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Bring Safety Accord to Pakistan, Labor Advocates Urge

Clean Clothes Campaign, a global network of more than 235 organizations over 45 countries that lobbies for garment workers’ rights, has just released a new brief that outlines potentially deadly safety issues and violations in Pakistini factories employed by major apparel brands. It says it is evidence that the International Accord on Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry must be extended to Pakistan as soon as possible and that brands who have not signed it yet should.

The organization has also released a factory incidents tracker that lists deadly and potentially lethal factory occurrences since January 2021 and spotlights more than three dozen such incidents in Pakistan over the past 20 months in factories of both Accord signatory brands and brands that have not signed the Accord. The 186 brand signatories include Adidas Group, G-Star Raw and Primark while the latter includes such major jeanswear makers as Levi Strauss & Co., Lee and Wrangler’s parent Kontoor Brands, Gap Inc. and Mavi.

The outlined incidents include a poisonous gas leak that killed four workers at a factory that makes jeans for H&M Group in January. 

The legally binding International Accord came about in 2013 after the deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed at least 1,134 people. Steps to include Pakistan under its jurisdiction have been underway ever since but have not come to fruition and no formal reform was taken in that country after a fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi killed more than 250 workers in Sept. 2012.

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When the new International Accord was last signed it was agreed that it would be extended to Pakistan by October 2023.

Clean Clothes Campaign’s brief explains that although the plan has support in Pakistan the time frame as to when to implement the new rules is still undecided and that the still unclear specifics of it cannot be a carbon copy of the Bangladeshi agreement. It goes on to say that it is urgent that the parameters be decided upon as advised by Pakistani unions and labor rights organizations who already have an outline of what will work in their country. Clean Clothes Campaign believes it could be launched as early as next year.

Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan, said, “The factory incidents highlighted by the workers in Pakistan show how dire the need is for Accord expansion. Workers deserve to feel safe and protected when going to work, and the Accord should start its operations before the end of the year. The Pakistan Accord should protect workers in garment factories, in textile mills and in informal small workplaces alike. We understand inspecting all units will take time, but all those workers should have the right to file complaints if they are in danger from the start of the program.”

Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, added, “With due diligence legislation established in several European countries and under development in many more, brands can no longer afford to delay. They know harm is being done to workers in their supply chain and every day the Accord program is not yet operational is another day workers’ lives are at risk.”

Gap, Kontoor Brands and Mavi have not yet responded to Rivet’s request for a comment. Levi Strauss & Co., which has been under continual pressure to sign the International Accord by Remake in recent months, said, “Our position and statement are the same as they were a few weeks ago.”

At that time Levi’s said, “Our Terms of Engagement current assessments are based on industry-leading standards and local- country laws, conducted by specialized third-party experts. Following a risk-based approach, we also conduct third-party assessments with direct suppliers operating in Cambodia and Pakistan, with processes in place to take corrective action wherever deemed necessary. In 2022, we’ll complete phase two of our assessment in Pakistan and our third-party grievance reporting hotline will expand to all factories across Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan.”